What to Expect From Manon
A pretty, fun-loving teen age girl is sent by her family to live in a convent. At a country crossroads, fate intervenes and she is swept off to true love, then to an existence of luxury and indulgence in upper-class Paris—only to end her life, ill and imprisoned for theft, back in the arms of her lover. Jules Massenet’s opera, based on Abbé Prévost’s 1731 novel L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut, is a work full of elegance and spirit, highly emotional yet never lapsing into melodrama, and firmly focused on its two protagonists.
For Laurent Pelly, director of the Met’s new production, Manon is the quintessential tale of a free woman navigating a world of powerful, avaricious men—men who grab whatever they want, whatever the consequences, with a stunning lack of self-awareness or empathy. Pelly decided to move the action from its original early 18th-century setting to an era some 150 years later. “If I had to define my approach,” he says, “it would be to take a man’s view of women at the end of the 19th century. What interested me was to place the opera in its historical context, the time when Massenet wrote the music. And then to sort of draw a parallel to Carmen and Violetta in La Traviata, famous heroines who are sacrificed. A free woman is dangerous. That is what the story is about.”
A full-length activity, designed to support your ongoing curriculum.
Three "Musical Highlights" designed to focus on bits of music from Manon to cultivate familiarity with the work.
Performance Activities for students to enjoy during the Metropolitan Opera HD transmission.
A post-transmission activity, integrating the Live in HD experience into students' wider views of the performing arts and humanities.
Manon at the Met
With sets by Chantal Thomas and costumes designed by Pelly himself, Manon’s world is a stylized urban jungle, with smooth surfaces, top hats, tails, and beautiful gowns, “very much inspired by the beginnings of Impressionism,” as the director points out—a place at once glamorous and visibly laden with risk. It’s an exquisite setting for the talents of star soprano Anna Netrebko, who sings the title role. Though the manners of this world may seem formal and remote to young viewers, the characters’ emotions and the social games of Manon should feel familiar today.
This educator’s guide encourages students to meet Manon on her own terms—as a character both naïve and knowing; manipulative and a creature of impulse. The main Classroom Activity invites students to consider Manon’s life through the psychology of memory. Other activities introduce the treacherous world she steps into, as well as the dazzling music with which Massenet brings it to life. By acquainting students with Manon’s characters, their relationships, and the romance of its music, this guide can help generateanticipation and enjoyment of their The Met: Live in HD experience.